I always develop an uneasy feeling at around 4pm on Christmas Day. It is triggered by the realization that the event I’ve been looking forward to for weeks is almost over. Even though I rationally understand it couldn’t be any different, there is still the nagging thought – ‘Is that it?’
Christmas is my favorite time of year, and it’s even more enjoyable now my son is around. It’s a cultural thing for me rather than a religious event. This holiday is where many of my cherished memories of childhood originate, and for most of my adult life, I used it as an excuse to allow my alcoholic tendencies to go into overdrive.
Christmas isn’t officially celebrated here in Thailand. My son’s school is open, but we allow him to take the day off. Some of the larger department stores do put up Christmas decorations, and there does be festive music in supermarkets like Tesco/Lotus. Still, it is easy to completely ignore the festivities completely here, and I once made it until the early evening before remembering it was Christmas Day.
Even though I love Christmas so much, I stopped celebrating it for a couple of years. This was after I just go sober, and I was living in rural Thailand. The fact that I didn’t drink anymore meant there didn’t seem to be any point to getting into the festive mood. Then my son was born, and it became a big deal again. Timmy is now 7 years old which is probably the best time to appreciate Christmas – although there can be awkward questions about why Santa comes to him and none of his friends.
I downloaded a Christmas countdown app for my son at the end of November, and I’ve been almost as excited about the days ticking down as him. It’s hard to believe it is Christmas Eve already.
Christmas offers me a powerful lesson in mindfulness. That discomforting feeling I expect to experience tomorrow afternoon is due to a mismatch between my expectations and reality. Christmas Day could never be as good as my ideas about what it ‘should’ be like so disappointment is guaranteed.
Suffering occurs when there is conflict between my expectations and reality. The further my thinking moves away from reality, the more this inner pain increases. Mindfulness practice is all about waking up to what is really there, and this is why it reduces suffering.
I enjoy the build-up to Christmas enough that I’m willing to accept a bit of disillusionment on the day. The difference is that this is a choice, and if those uncomfortable feelings arise, I’ll be able to recognize them immediately for what they are. As I said, I love Christmas, and I’ll hopefully a few mindful moments tomorrow so it can be even more special.